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Fair Fighting Rules in Relationships and HEAVY HITTER by Katie Cotugno

Cover of the book Heavy Hitter by Katie Cotugno used as a teaching example for the therapy concept of fair fighting rules.

Lacey is a super-star pop singer with hordes of devoted fans who both love her and, maybe, would rip the skin from her body. Her summer tour is literally changing the economy.  Jimmy is a weathered MLB catcher hoping to win a World Series this season – his last before retiring from a long career with the Orioles. When they meet, the connection is instantaneous, spicy, and deeply meaningful to each of them.


Jimmy’s world is pretty different than the average person. And Lacey’s world is basically in another universe from Jimmy’s. The public pressure is enormous, and the gap between their lives is monumental. Lacey has no privacy. She can’t even go out in public without a whole plan for her safety, and Jimmy doesn’t get that she’s stuck in a golden prison. Jimmy worries that the immensity of her life may be more than he can handle, and Lacey is hurt that he seems overwhelmed by her success. When they disagree or face hurdles in the relationship, their communication immediately breaks down, and they devolve into mean and petty arguments.  


Disagreements are an inevitable part of any relationship. What matters is not the presence of these disputes, but how they are managed. Just like an MLB game needs rules, so do arguments. The implementation of fair fighting rules can effectively moderate disagreements, preventing minor issues from escalating into major, emotionally charged problems.


Here are suggestions for fair fighting rules in relationships:


Check Your Tone: Avoid yelling, screaming, snarling, sneering, grumbling, whining, scorn, and sarcasm. Instead, use a soft voice and a measured and calm tone.


Focus on Argument at a Time: Focus on the issue at hand. Refrain from getting sidetracked into other past arguments or unrelated tangents.


Avoid Mean Language: Focus on the issue, not the person. Character attacks, swearing, and degrading statements can lead to hurt feelings, defensiveness, and deepening problems.


Take Turns Talking: No interruptions, monologuing, or stonewalling. Truly listen when the other person talks. When it’s your turn, pause after a few sentences so the other person can absorb.


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